I loved the action of this movie, and the special effects in this movie, but it completely lacks the impact of other war movies like Saving Private Ryan and The Bridge on the River Kwai. In short, go see it as an action movie, but not for any other reason.
You would expect that a movie dealing with the Tuskegee Airmen would focus heavily on racism. The racism in this movie is so pedestrian in it’s presentation that it seems as if it’s almost not there. (And please, do not take my opinions on this movie to in anyway downplay the very real problem of racism. All my comments are within the scope of the film.) The military doesn’t want to give black pilots an opportunity to fly real combat missions because they are black, and gives them menial tasks and substandard planes. Black pilot walks into a bar, is told it’s “whites only”, and a fight ensues. Black pilots save white pilots. White pilots invite them to a bar for a drink. That’s really about it. They even have the black POW save the white commanders life just to underscore it all.
As far as the plot goes, it works fine if you’re expecting everything that’s going to happen. Ten minutes into the movie, you know exactly who is going to die in the end, heroically killing the lead German pilot. Isn’t it always the “best pilot who takes all the risks” that dies in the end? The pilot who gets shot down “The new recruit who shouldn’t have been flying to begin with due to an injury so his commanding officer blames himself for it” is of course going to make it out of the German POW camp (which had an almost “Hogan’s Heroes” tone about it). The pilot who crashes his plane in a fireball near the end even survives. Even the lead German pilot’s indignation when he realizes black pilots have just annihilated his squadron and base is laughably predictable. I would have just liked one “I didn’t see that coming” thing in this movie.
And, while I’m no expert, I think it’s unlikely that a single P51 can take out a destroyer. The effects were amazing, but it was too ridiculous to be believed.
The acting was excellent, though I think both Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Terrance Howard were miscast. I know that Gooding is 43 years old, but he just didn’t seem old enough for the part of Major Stance. Similarly, but less so, Terrance Howard didn’t seem old enough to play Colonel Bullard. They gave Gooding a pipe, which frankly looked ridiculous. I can only assume this was to make him seem older. They would have been better served to have Howard play Major Stance and get an older actor, a Morgan Freeman or even better, James Earl Jones to play Colonel Bullard. Either would have been better referred to as “the old man.” I would have preferred Gooding in the role of Marty “Easy” Julian (which is not to take away from Nate Parker’s performance in that role).
All in all, an enjoyable movie, but I was expecting a lot more than I got. I’m frankly disappointed that this is George Lucas’s final movie. Hopefully he will do Indiana Jones 5 and do it well.
Kind of wish I’d seen Underworld Awakening instead. I know that won’t disappoint, I’ll get exactly what I’m expecting.
One last note. Even though it was only made of pixels, I felt ill watching them blow up that beautiful steam engine. I really hope it was just pixels…